Lee W. Olson of Huntington Beach clearly feels the ballot initiative process is his opportunity to have his vision of government writ large upon California – even if that vision involves a wholesale reworking of large swaths of public policy.
The Secretary of State’s office last week cleared three Olson-authored initiatives for petition circulation. In an age when lengthy, complex legislation is considered by many to be the devil’s work, Olson has kept each of his measures to a single, tidy paragraph.
One measure would eliminate state income and property taxes for all Californians 55 and older; the Legislative Analyst’s Office and the Department of Finance estimate this would mean a $15 billion-per-year hit to the state budget, and $5 billion to $10 billion more for local governments.
A second measure would prohibit property, sales or income taxes from being used to fund California’s public schools, colleges and universities, or to buy textbooks for grades one through eight. K-12 and higher education now account for about 32 percent of California’s General Fund spending, about $38 billion. “The only remaining sources of revenue would be from the state lottery, student fees, and the federal government,” the Legislative Analyst’s Office found. “Absent any new sources of revenues, public education programs would only be a fraction of their current size.”
And a third would change the state constitution to give parents or legal guardians the sole authority and responsibility to set their children’s educational curricula, not to be usurped by state and local governments. Simplicity might not have been Olson’s friend on this one, as the LAO seemed stumped about what it might actually mean.
Olson has until April 23 to gather valid signatures from 694,354 registered voters for each of these measures in order to put them on next year’s ballot. But I’m guessing… no.